Perhaps we have reached the impossible, but business success is always possible. Customer loyalty is the lifeblood of your business. Surely, anyone running a business wants to keep their blood pressure in a healthy range! Now, let us first understand what is customer loyalty, and why customer loyalty matters?
According to The Oxford Dictionary of Marketing, customer loyalty is “the ability to retain customers and to keep them buying what is on offer over a longer period of time than competitors”. Brian Tracy suggests that “loyal customers are your best sales people”. Loyal customers spend lots of money because they are familiar with the products and they enjoy them. Because of this familiarity, they refer the product to new customers. And as a company, you will spend less money in advertising. But it is, of course, quite challenging to develop and keep loyal customers. Research has shown that it can be up to six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing one.
COVID-19 is taking the world by surprise, causing a great deal of uncertainty and raising issues that require thoughtful responses. This newly identified coronavirus was first seen in Wuhan in central China in late December 2019. As we enter 2021, the virus now has a global reach on all continents. As the virus spreads, communities, ecosystems, and supply chains are being impacted. Journalist Gene Marks believes that “the world of work has changed, and the business owners that don’t understand that reality will fall behind”. Business owners should know that the buying behavior shifted rapidly at the start of the pandemic. We can expect certain trends, like online shopping and price sensitivity, to continue well into the future. During a crisis like COVID-19, customer loyalty is more important than ever. Consumer budgets are tight, and customers’ willingness to spend is much lower than other times. I am positive that now is the time to start focusing on customer loyalty. Keep in mind that loyal customers will have your back.
In this article, I shall introduce you to four strategies that will help you to build and maintain customer loyalty during the pandemic.
1 – Be Generous
Every business has its most loyal customers, so decide what special services and resources you can supply to these valuable customers. Although all your customers are important, it may become necessary to make the decision to take care of these customers first. Be generous and offer good prices. This could be the time to give special offers and discounts to retain your customer base, and potentially attract new customers. According to the Selligent Global Connected Consumer Index, consumer purchases are driven by quality and price, rather than brand name. Below are the top five reasons consumers are loyal to a particular brand.
- 26% product / service quality
- 24% pricing / rates
- 15% brand mission and values
- 13% product / service availability
- 8% brand name
The data shows that 50% of consumers focus on quality and price as key drivers of brand loyalty. Due to COVID-19, customers are more likely to make purchases to cut costs, especially on nonessential items. At the same time, customers no longer rely solely on brand names to determine the quality of a product or service. This shift in buying behavior offers the opportunity for smaller brands to earn market share. Whether it’s by offering a superior product or a lower price, or better yet, both. Emerging e-commerce and digital-savvy retailers may be better positioned for success.
2 – Sell Your Products or Services Online
Social distancing and isolation restrictions keep people at home and mostly away from brick-and-mortar businesses. However, research indicates that people are still buying. The major difference is that they are buying online. According to research by eMarketer, around 75% of consumers surveyed in March 2020 said they intended to avoid physical stores and over half avoided shops in general. This has led to significant growth in e-commerce. Another survey shows that consumers in emerging and developed economies have made the greatest shift to online shopping, and that online purchases have increased by 6 to 10 percentage points across most product categories.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world. The changes we make now will have lasting effects as the world economy begins to recover,” said UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi. It is important to remember that we have faced crises like COVID-19 in the past and will face them again in the future. We need to be prepared and rational in response. If there is disruption, there will also be recovery, so how we act in a time of crisis can also inform our long-term impact. “Companies that put e-commerce at the heart of their business strategies are prepared for the post-COVID-19 era,” said Yomi Kastro, founder and CEO of Inveon.
3 – Offer Delivery Services
Recent MetaPack research shows that “if retailers and brands understand the importance of getting the basics right, enabling customers to curate their own deliveries, and have their requirements met rapidly and to specific requirements, customers will reward them with long-term commitment and repeat orders”. What are the customers’ requirements that you should meet? Research demonstrates that most consumers now expect free delivery for their everyday purchases, and many identify slow delivery as a negative delivery experience. 70% of more than 3,500 online consumers in North America and Europe are prepared to pay extra to ensure speed and convenience, such as one-hour, same day or Sunday delivery. It appears evident, then, that free delivery and speed are crucial to ensure customer loyalty.
Choosing to set up a delivery service as part of your business is going to take time, you will need extra staff or a delivery partner but it will be a great addition to your company’s existing services. Make sure you treat your couriers well and ensure that they are well-supported. This will prove to be a very profitable aspect of your business that you can use to expand your business to new products and new areas. Delivery service is arguably the best plan you will have to work to maintain consumer trust.
4 – Share Stories of Gratitude
Emotional connection, above all, is the powerful tool when it comes to customer loyalty. According to a study from Harvard Medical School, when appreciation is displayed and communicated it makes people feel valued. You don’t need a large budget to make your customers feel valued, something as simple as a “thank you” note or a personalized message can pull at the heartstrings. When you make a customer feel valued and heard, the emotional connection they have with your brand deepens. They now rely on your brand to fulfill a particular need and trust that you’ll deliver.
COVID times are an opportunity to leverage this tool by expressing gratitude for your customers and community. This method is particularly relevant for small businesses but can also be useful for large companies. When signaling gratitude, make sure to specifically thank your customers and community for any support they have given. You may also want to acknowledge how hard COVID has been for individuals or other brands you partner with and share a message of hope for the future. Stories of gratitude are also a good opportunity to highlight any ways you have been working to engage or build up your community. This can improve your ability to build solidarity with your customers.
This global crisis is truly about customer moments that matter. By putting your customers’ interests first, this can be a time for your company’s brand to lead. Even though you might be taking a short-term hit to your bottom line, putting flexible refund, pricing, and change policies in place, and finding other ways to help your customers through this crisis will be beneficial to the long-term health of your company.
This is a time for you to look ahead to the future. As I mentioned in the first section, we have faced crises like COVID-19 in the past and will face them again in the future. Companies want to return to growth and want to continue to provide excellent value to their customers. What moments in people’s lives can you improve via your offerings? What new, improved and innovative offerings can you launch in the market now that will give you momentum as we come out of COVID-19? Now is a time to look at that, and to factor that into your future offerings’ roadmaps. Let your customers know how important they are to you by keeping their interests first and foremost. You will be rewarded by customer loyalty and trust.